It's a golden era for cannabis edibles, a time when famed chefs are getting into a market previously reserved for sketchy guys with goatees. And while the edibles of yesteryear regularly incapacitated us for hours or days, today's products are clearly labeled and, for the most part, accurately dosed.
Then there's the novelty factor. With full legalization still in Missouri's future, only medical cardholders can purchase cannabis products legally, though recreational use is legal in Illinois.
Keep in mind that marijuana is still banned federally, of course, and don't drive stoned, but it's understandable to want to witness the gold rush going on across the river. We started in Sauget. With its slick design and professional staff, the Beyond/Hello dispensary — located among the strip clubs — is perhaps that scuzzy city's most polished establishment, of any kind. Beyond/Hello's other Sauget location, meanwhile, by the Gateway Grizzlies baseball stadium, is the highest-performing store among the parent company's 39 national outlets. We also visited Ascend in Collinsville, Rise in Effingham, Heya Wellness in St. Ann and Greenlight Ferguson.
To celebrate 4/20, we sampled a quite-literally dizzying array of edible, and drinkable, products, and for your edification we've run down the highlights below. The biggest problem, we noticed, was that these foodstuffs are so tasty that restraining ourselves from consuming the entire container in one sitting took incredible willpower. — Ben Westhoff
Wild Berry "Chill" Camino Gummies
Available at: Ascend Dispensary
Cost: $34 for 20 gummies (100 mg THC total)
Edibles have a stigma, with good reason. For decades, it was impossible to know exactly how much THC was in them. Sometimes a whole brownie wouldn't get you high, while other times it only took a few bites to rocket launch you into a swirling galaxy of paranoia.
In the legalization era, however, edibles are a breeze. Take Camino gummies, by Kiva Confections, which are my go-to. I tell everyone about them (the way dog owners blather on about their fur babies) because, whether you eat a Camino to party, chill, vibe out or treat pain, it meets you at your level. It activates both your body and your head, making the high from the cannabutter edibles of yesteryear seem two dimensional in comparison.
My Camino obsession started one morning before work. I got out of bed and immediately thought I was going to die. It was that time of the month. Instead of making coffee and doing my makeup, I lay coiled up on the floor in the middle of my room. I was nauseous and sweaty, desperate for relief. And (of course!) I was out of Advil. I was doomed.
Then I remembered that my coworker gifted me a bag of Wild Berry Camino gummies (of the "Chill" variety) the day before at work. (Our employer was High Times magazine.)
I slowly crawled over to my bag. Angel voices sang as I pulled out the Caminos. I ate one gummy and then, within the span of an hour, my pain had dropped from a 10 to a 3. I got up off the floor and felt my internal flame reignited. Not bad, considering I'd nearly surrendered to death less than an hour before.
And so I became a Caminos evangelist. No rocket launching to other galaxies or paranoia, just pain relief and a mood boost to help me get through the day. Caminos make me grateful to be a stoner. —Mary Carreon
Lush Black Cherry gummies
Available at: Beyond/Hello in Sauget
Price: $34 for 20 gummies (100 mg THC total)
Mindy Segal won a James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2012, and ran the beloved (and sadly currently closed) Mindy's Bakery in Chicago. As such, it seems below her pay grade to be making THC gummies.
I mean, if there were ever a food that didn't require a great chef, it's gummies. When have you had a gummy bear or worm and thought, "That didn't 100 percent hit the spot"?
So, predictably, Mindy's Lush Black Cherry gummies are delicious. Coated in sugar, they taste a bit like Kool-Aid, or maybe XXX Vitamin Water. I wanted to play food critic, really savor it and identify some "notes" (mulberry? Brussels sprouts?), but it was so good I basically just inhaled it.
It was a Saturday, and I took it right after my son's soccer game, his third of the day. Plus he'd been eating junk food since dawn, so I knew a meltdown was inevitable, and hoped Mindy's product might steel me against it. It did!
To complement 5 mg of THC, Mindy's gummies have 5 mg of CBD, making everything lighter and fluffier. I was able to console my son, convince him not to pound his brother and get him to bed a mere two and a half hours past his bedtime.
By now it was 11:15 p.m., and it dawned on me that I had never much written about marijuana before, and had no idea how to do it. The Reeferfront Times' Tommy Chims makes it look easy, but my only attempt was the time I got super high at a cabin in the woods and put on the music of Animal Collective in an attempt to understand them.
It was a total fail. Their music is un-understandable.
Anyway, after a while I gave up trying to review my Mindy's experience and decided to just take a bath. So I popped in there, read a book about how to grow your own sprouts and then polished off a leftover burrito. And that was that. Thank you, Mindy, for helping me crush a Saturday night. —Ben Westhoff
Yuzu Elderflower Social Tonic
Available at: Rise, Effingham
Cost: $30 for a six-pack (12 mg THC total)
Yuzu Elderflower is one of the first low-dose cannabis drinks to hit the market. Each can has 4 mg of CBD and only 2 mg of THC, which may make it sound like a scam. But a weed beverage that lets you consume multiple cans without getting so high you forget how to act? Well, that's revolutionary.
Personally, I love a good ol' fashioned cross-fade. The Yuzu hits the spot because it can also be used as a non-sugary mixer.
And check this out: After accidentally freezing a can one time, I realized Cann products can be made into ice cubes. And so, about a month ago, before an out-of-town friend came to stay at my house, I filled an ice-cube tray with Yuzu Elderberry. I made her a tequila drink with soda water and lemon, and then asked if she wanted "the secret ingredient" in her cocktail.
"Obviously," she replied.
I splashed in some Yuzu Elderflower and also dropped one medicated ice cube in her drink, to go with one non-medicated one, and a sprig of rosemary for good measure.
She took a sip. "This is the best effervescent party fizz I've ever had!" she said. "I already want another."
History was made, and the cocktail inspired what has become my new favorite phrase: "effervescent party fizz." Medicated ice cubes are what summertime daydreams are made of. —Mary Carreon
Available at: Beyond/Hello
Price: $24 for 20 gummies (100 mg THC total)
Wonder's press materials say their line of products was created for the "'canna curious' consumer — those who have never experienced cannabis before or have not in a long time."
Perfect for me then, considering most of my marijuana use happened before my brain was fully developed. During those years I found it the best drug imaginable, but in my late 20s and 30s swore it off. The paranoia was debilitating; all I could think about was how unfashionable my clothes were.
But a new crop of edibles has brought me back to the game. These are "hybrid" products, where THC is combined with other cannabinoid strains, like CBD or, in the case of the Wonder's Focus, CBG. Like CBD, CBG is associated with pain relief and considered "non-psychoactive," but that depends on your definition of "psychoactive," because CBD and CBG both get me more than a little high on their own.
I can't differentiate the two, but I love both of them with THC. Weed's downer effect is countered by their upper, optimistic characteristics, and the combination often has me up late sending long, convivial emails to old friends. Focus (or, as stylized, "focus") is quite a concoction: It's 5 mg CBG, 5 mg THC, ginger, and fruit and vegetable juice that give it a pear flavor. Very tasty! Other Wonder products include Laugh (5 mg THC plus turmeric) and Relax (10 mg CBD plus 5 mg of lemon balm) and mini mints, which have between 1 and 3 mgs THC each.
I'm not much of a microdoser, but I love this downward trend in cannabis dosing, especially when it comes to these hybrids. For anyone who's sworn off marijuana because of paranoia, they will likely get you back in the door. —Ben Westhoff
Orange Daydream beers
Available at: Heya Wellness in St. Ann
Cost: $7 per can (4.23 mg THC)
Weed-infused beers haven't really caught on. In January, the world's largest brewer, AB InBev, quietly ended its partnership with Canada cannabis producer Tilray, in which each had invested $50 million in a play for Canada's cannabis beverage market.
But maybe consumers are just doing cannabis beer wrong. To assess the situation for the sake of science, I decided to take a crack at it myself with a few Mohi Orange Daydreams. Brewed in a partnership between Swade Cannabis and O'Fallon Brewery, the nonalcoholic, THC-infused beer launched in August. Each of the cans we purchased had 4.23 mg of THC that has been nano-emulsified, a process that makes their effects come on more quickly than you might expect from your average edible.
I had my first Mohi at 7:15 on a Friday night at a small gathering with friends, using a pocketknife to puncture the side of the can. I then popped the top and drank the whole thing in about four seconds. The taste resembled a hoppy Fresca, with the mango and orange flavors prominent, followed by a strong weed aftertaste. Within 15 minutes I felt a slight puffiness under the eyes, but few other effects. Mohi number two went down the hatch at 7:30 p.m. and hit my stomach like a bomb. Soon I began feeling a lightness in my head.
I settled into 15-minute intervals between beverages, figuring the regimented approach would make for better science. I pressed forth with Mohi number three at 7:45 p.m. I started feeling a distinct spaciness as the THC started to really kick in. By Mohi number four, my stomach was in distress, but I powered through because I'm a professional. Its 12 ounces joined the bubbling cauldron between my chest and waist at 8 p.m.
An hour into this bad idea, I started feeling the effects of the THC more heavily, to a point where watching videos of the deathgrind band Exhumed on mute seemed extremely funny. It was a nice calm body high, with my limbs feeling a bit heavy and my brain easily distracted.
By 8:30 p.m. my stomach had calmed down and the high really took hold. By 10 p.m. I was fully stoned, and spent some minutes looking for a lost item that was in my hand.
All told, I'd call Mohi's weed beers a reasonably refreshing drink that gets you where you need to be. I'm still not sure the best way to enjoy cannabis-infused beverages. But shotgunning is definitely not it. —Thomas K. Chimchards
Available at: Beyond/Hello
Cost: $29 per bar (100 mg THC)
In retrospect, it's hard to understand how I misjudged the potency of the Windy City chocolate bar, as its specs are clearly printed, in huge letters, atop each piece: "10 mg THC." Yet, I, an infrequent cannabis user since the apple-bong incident of 2006 (I'll spare you the details), swallowed most of a square at a recent event populated by future coworkers from a job I was about to start.
Trying a new edible while meeting your new colleagues for the first time — what a great idea! At least no one could tell I was absolutely blazed.
The milk chocolate and toffee bar is named Windy City in a nod to Chicago, where Incredibles is based. It joins the company's other candy-bar offerings including Peanut Butter Buddha (peanut butter and pretzels) and strawberry crunch (white chocolate, strawberries and crispies).
Windy City's taste lived up to its name with a light, very sweet chocolate peppered with satisfying toffee crunches, which instinctively made me want to break off another piece. Thankfully, I did not. Its inactive ingredients include palm kernel oil, which the label claims is "sustainable." This is a dubious certification, considering that the process for making any palm kernel oil requires harvesting immature palm fruit trees, and that mature forests and animal habitats are destroyed in the process.
I did not taste the cannabis oil at all. Yet under its influence, I became separated from the ability to converse normally, until a post-event trip to Taco Bell got me back on track.
Despite my stupor, I recommend this edible. It tasted good, got the job done and provided me with knockout-level sleep. Get that deforestation issue under control, Incredibles, and I'll try a half dose next time. —JRR Tokin'
Black Cherry Tonic Fizz
Available at: Beyond/Hello
Cost: $12 per can (25 mg THC)
Black cherry is arguably the best flavor of soda. I mean, what else you got? Root beer? Ginger ale? Cola? What sensible person calls "cola" their favorite flavor?
So I was psyched to try Tonic Fizz or, as it's stylized, "tonic fizz." (Why does everything with weed need to be lowercase letters?) To my chagrin, it tasted more like a Tab than a Boylan. It advertises zero calories and zero sugar, though it remains eternally unclear why sugar-substitute chemicals are better than God-given sugar.
So, it wasn't great going down. Like weed beers, weed sodas are having a difficult time finding much market share, and I was beginning to understand why. But the Tonic Fizz settled in nicely, and 20 minutes later I felt lightheaded. Hell, if I knew anything about chakras, I might claim that at least one of them was activated!
I would have drunk more, but was intimidated by the dosing. After all, it's a 12-ounce can with 25 mg THC and 25 mg CBD. When you're pouring it into a glass with ice, how are you supposed to tell how much you're consuming? Next time I'll drink from a measuring cup.
At $12, it's not cheap. A comparable package of edibles, like Focus by Wonder, gives you twice as much THC for the price. So there's definitely an upsell, novelty aspect about this drink. But it left me feeling so groovy that I can't really complain. —Ben Westhoff
Strawberry Lemonade gummies
Available at: Greenlight Ferguson
Cost: $25 for 10 gummies (100 mg THC total)
Little Rock–based cannabis company Good Day Farm made news recently by creating a sewer-lid-sized, 135-pound edible, the world's largest cannabis gummy.
Containing an astounding 116,000 mg of THC, the two-foot-wide sour-apple giant was made in response to a record-breaking cannabis brownie produced in Massachusetts in December.
Hilariously, the giant gummy contained so much THC that it could not be removed from the building without breaking the law; whoever was in possession of it would immediately be exceeding legal personal limits.
The company also makes bite-sized versions, however, and so I picked up a package of Strawberry Lemonade. The first bite immediately brought forth the sweetness of the strawberry and sugar coating, with the tart lemon flavor coming at the end.
It evoked a summer spent sitting on the porch with a glass of cold refreshment as much as it did a candy treat; in fact, these things taste so good I inadvertently took a larger dose than I'd initially intended, mindlessly putting back three 10 mg gummies on taste alone before realizing my error.
There are far worse mistakes one could make, however. As it turns out, 30 mg was the sweet spot (pun intended), and within an hour, I was pleasantly zoned out and completely confounded by the passage of time, which no longer seemed to move in a linear fashion. My limbs felt heavy, and my chronic pain was delightfully soothed.
Good Day Farm will also soon offer a line of nano-emulsified edibles which are said to be even more fast-acting, thanks to some wacky scientific shit that involves blasting a mixture of cannabis oil and water with sound waves until the former becomes water soluble.
Those will be available in gummy form as well, in the flavors of Strawberry Kiwi, Sour Blue Raspberry and one ominously titled "Night Night." —Thomas K. Chimchards
Sour Neon Smiley Gummies
Available at: Ascend Dispensary
Cost: $8 for five gummies (25 mg THC total)
In fifth grade, I caught a ninth-inning, two-out pop fly — which was miraculous not because it won the softball game against our rivals, but because I was such a mediocre player.
No one, including myself, thought I'd come through. I heard the pop, looked up and felt the ball slap into my Kmart brand Rawlings glove. It all happened in slow motion, and when I came to I was engulfed in the arms of my sweaty, polyester-clad teammates, who treated me as if I was Richard the Lionheart returning home from the Crusades.
We immediately headed to the concession stands, where I indulged in my favorite treat: a cherry sno-cone — not the bougie Hawaiian shaved-ice stuff but served in one of those paper cone wrappers that began deteriorating after the first bite. Sweet like a Luden's wild-cherry cough drop, it was the taste of victory. After the adrenaline and sugar rush subsided, a giddy calm came over me until I drifted off to sleep.
Sour Neon Smiley Gummies are about the closest I've come to this experience. These technicolor, THC-infused, chewy SweeTarts-style treats give that glorious, mouth-puckering punch of concession-stand syrup that eases you into a place that is one part tranquil satisfaction and the other part body lightness. The afterglow of sweet victory or the result of ingesting delicious, sugary cannabis? Either way, it's a winner. —Cheryl Baehr
Chocolate Terra Bites
Available at: Beyond/Hello
Cost: $34 for 20 chocolate covered blueberries (100 mg THC total)
Milk chocolate, a blueberry and 5 mg of THC. This is perhaps one of Earth's perfect foods.
Not long after swallowing one recently, nice and high, I found myself browsing Kiva Confections' online copy, which admittedly tempered my euphoria. It claims that their chocolate-covered blueberry "bites" are made using a "traditional, labor-intensive panning process" and that each takes "10+ hours to create."
There was no way for me to fact check that, and yet I plowed on, learning that the bites are made of "sustainably-sourced cacao infused with cold water hash." Having no idea what that is, and with my high threatening to evaporate, I turned to Leafly, which notes that cold water hash is made by "putting cannabis in ice water, which freezes trichomes, and then agitating the mixture, which breaks off the trichomes."
So what are trichomes?! I was bugging out. More scrolling around informed me that they're those tiny crystals on the buds and leaves of cannabis flower.
The mystery solved, I settled back into blissful dream state. You don't have to be a scientist or an ambitious copy writer to appreciate Chocolate Terra Bites. Having been in production since 2014, they're about as old as these products get. They're time tested, it's fair to say, and classic. —Ben Westhoff